Despite a dodgy hip, the superstar remains youthful thanks to pop star friends like Dua Lipa – but is still struggling with anger and childhood trauma. He explains how fatherhood is making him a better man

A good illustration of Elton John in 2021 is how, last week, he scored the eighth UK No 1 single of his career and also had his right hip replaced. The 74-year-old certainly has his frailties – “my left hip is the hip of a two-year-old, and my right hip is the hip of a 92-year-old” – but is youthful in other ways. His enormously enjoyable and varied new album, The Lockdown Sessions, may feature a range of boomer-pleasing names, such as Eddie Vedder, Glen Campbell and two A-list Stevies (Wonder and Nicks), but there are also plenty of pop artists that could feasibly incite a TikTok dance craze: Dua Lipa, Lil Nas X, Rina Sawayama. One song pairs John with country singer Jimmie Allen over a drum’n’bass beat; another is interspersed with raps from Young Thug and Nicki Minaj.

“Watching Young Thug freestyle was just amazing!” he enthuses over a video call, self-isolating the day before his operation, dressed in collared, lapelled pyjamas over a rugby top. Oil paintings of 19th-century figures flank him in the background. “I hate it when people knock rap and hip-hop – when you actually go in the studio and watch Young Thug in front of a microphone, it’s an incredible thing.” He’d had dinner with Lipa, who duets with him on their No 1 single Cold Heart, a few nights before; he rings up Olly Alexander of Years & Years, who covered Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin with him, “a couple of times a fortnight. I feel an empathy with these people. I’ve got the enthusiasm of an 18-year-old, and enthusiasm keeps me going.”

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